My Life In Media: Paul Brannigan, editor of Kerrang!
'Interviewing the Beastie Boys for my first feature for the magazine was a nightmare. They pretty much ignored every question I asked'
Monday 18 August 2008
Paul Brannigan, 37, is the editor of Kerrang!, the weekly magazine for metalheads of every persuasion. He will host the title's annual awards ceremony on Thursday and likes to boast that Kerrang! sells more copies each week than its rival NME. Originally from Northern Ireland, he now lives in Camden, north London, with his wife Hiroko and daughter Yuki.
What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?
From the age of 15 I bought all the UK music papers – Sounds, NME, Melody Maker... but Kerrang! was my bible. I knew all the journalists' names, their favourite bands, what pubs they drank in... It seemed as if being a music journalist was the most fun you could have without actually being in a band.
When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?
The Daily Mirror. I read it every day, mainly for the sports news and coverage of Irish politics. My dad used to get The Sun for its football coverage, but I hated it for its Thatcherite tone and anti-nationalist bias when reporting on events in Northern Ireland so I basically yapped about it to the point that my dad's evenings were quieter when he brought the Mirror home.
And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?
Match of the Day, all the music shows – from The Old Grey Whistle Test to Top of the Pops – and comedies like Blackadder. The only radio show I listened to was the Friday Rock Show, presented by Tommy Vance on Radio 1.
Describe your job.
I'm responsible for the overall editorial content, direction and tone of the magazine and the management of an editorial team of 12 people. I choose the cover stars, choose bands for our tours and tracks for our CDs, and liaise daily with all the section editors.
What are the first media sources you turn to in the morning?
I check the BBC news website on my Blackberry the minute I wake up. Partly, and I know this sounds rather morbid, to make sure no one important in Kerrang!'s world has died overnight which would necessitate starting the issue from scratch again, as happened when the guitarist Dimebag Darrell (Damageplan/Pantera) was murdered on stage in 2004, or when Joe Strummer passed away.
Do you consult any media sources during the day?
I read all the music mags when they arrive in the office, and check the BBC news site and all the big music websites constantly.
What do you tune into when you get home?
My four-year-old daughter tends to dictate what's on TV or radio when I get home, so I'll end up playing catch-up with the day's events on Sky News at 10 or 11pm.
What is the best thing about your job?
Being able to point readers towards bands that could change their lives, just as Kerrang! did for me when I was growing up.
And the worst?
A lot of "business" tends to get done over drinks at gigs so if you're not careful, you can get drawn into going out every single night of the week. I'm easily tempted.
How do you feel you influence the media?
Kerrang! has played a massive role in breaking every major hard rock band of the last 25 years, from Metallica and Guns N' Roses through to Marilyn Manson and My Chemical Romance and it's nice to still feel part of that process. We put Gallows on the cover of the magazine before anyone else had even written a page on them and they got offered deals by every major record label on the day the issue hit the shelves.
What's the proudest achievement in your working life?
Being able to hand over awards to my teenage heroes – AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Metallica – at our annual awards ceremony.
And what's your most embarrassing moment?
Interviewing the Beastie Boys for my first feature for the magazine was a nightmare, as they pretty much ignored every question I asked, opting instead to chat among themselves. I could feel my cheeks reddening from a mixture of embarrassment and the growing realisation that this might well be my last Kerrang! interview, too. Thankfully, the transcript of their silly in-jokes made for entertaining reading, and they loved it, but it didn't feel at all amusing at the time.
Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire?
I'd like to interview Drew Barrymore. If only she'd form a black metal band...
What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?
I get The Observer on Sundays. One of these days I'll have time to read it properly. I'll pick Vice as my favourite magazine, as it's always unpredictable, provocative and cruelly amusing.
What would you do if you didn't work in the media?
Not sure, as I've never had a proper job. At one point I wanted to teach English in Japan, though, and I might be there now had I not failed the interview.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
I'll say Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker as he's the only writer who makes me laugh out loud for the right reasons. And his old website TV Go Home was genius.
1994: Does BBC training in Belfast; broadcasts on Radio Ulster and writes for Kerrang!
1995: Turns down job at BBC Sport to freelance for Kerrang!
2000: Becomes news editor at Music365.com, then leaves for short-lived music mag Kingsize
2001: Returns to Kerrang! as news editor, climbing to editor in 2005
2006: Kerrang! wins PPA award for Specialist Magazine; Brannigan wins New Editor Award at British Society of Magazine Editors Awards
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